Dreaming About My Ex: What Does It Mean And Why Does It Happen?

Why am I dreaming about my ex? If your sleeping brain is bombarded by images of your former partner, it can leave you feeling confused, annoyed, or maybe even a bit sad, but don’t freak out. Dreaming about an ex is inevitable and there are many different reasons it might be happening. If you’re experiencing this and don’t know why, here are a few common causes.

  1. You haven’t moved on. The most obvious reason you’re dreaming about your ex is that you still have feelings for them. Maybe it was a painful breakup that you want to do over, or maybe you feel like the whole thing was a mistake and you want a second chance. Either way, you’re dreaming about them because you haven’t moved on. You may think you’ve put them behind you, but your dreams are telling you differently.
  2. Certain things remind you of them. Every relationship has its specific quirks and habits. Maybe you shared a favorite coffee shop or listened to the same song on repeat together. Most people cut these things out of their lives when they break up, but every once in a while, one of those specific features of a previous relationship will show up, and it will make you think of your ex. It doesn’t mean you have unresolved feelings. You’re just confronting a vivid memory based on your surroundings.
  3. You’re feeling lost. Sometimes, feeling existential can make a person think about everyone they’ve ever loved or been involved with. If you’re confused about what to do with your life or have hit an unexpected roadblock and have had to change course, you may find yourself assessing every choice you ever made. Should you have turned down that job? Moved to this town? Broken up with that person? You question every step you’ve ever taken, and your dreams are full of tangled alternative scenarios that you don’t quite understand.
  4. You’re unfulfilled in your current relationship. If your ex was a better partner than your current one, dreaming of them is a way for your subconscious to remind you not to settle for anything less. You’ve had better. Why accept your current situation? Don’t make the mistake of thinking you should get back with your ex, though. Your dreams can only work with the material you give them in your waking life, and they therefore have no ability to conjure an image of a new partner. Take them as a reason to search for someone new.
  5. They symbolize an important period of your life. Sometimes a person can come to represent a key period in your life. Your relationship coincided with your move to a new city, your switch to a new job, or a time when you felt particularly awake to the world. It isn’t that your ex caused all those things to happen, it’s that they happened to be there when you were experiencing them. Because of that, your memory of that period in your life is inextricably linked to your memory of them. If you’re dreaming about that relationship, it could just be nostalgia for the period that you knew them, not nostalgia for them.
  6. Your subconscious is doing the grieving for you. You may think that your dreams are trying to torture you by conjuring your ex, but they’re actually trying to help. If you’re having a hard time moving forward and still feel a stab of pain when thinking about your ex, your subconscious may try to get some of the processing out of the way at night just to speed things up. You’re dreaming about your ex instead of thinking about them constantly during the day when you have a hundred other things that need your attention.
  7. They haven’t apologized. Waiting for an apology after a breakup is like waiting for the apocalypse. Sure, it might happen, but you have no control over whether it does or doesn’t, and you certainly can’t predict when it might happen. In spite of the futility of the exercise, people spend months waiting for an apology from their ex because it is hard to move on when someone has hurt you and refuses to own the pain they’ve caused. Your dreams are grappling with this pain just as your conscious mind is.
  8. You haven’t apologized. Betraying someone you care about can rival the pain of being betrayed, especially if you don’t think you’ve apologized enough. You have to move on at some point, and cutting ties with your ex is one of the most important rules for a successful breakup, but sometimes your dreams show how much your conscience is still hurting. You know that you need to cut your losses and move on, but your dreams remind you that you still haven’t gotten over the harm you’ve caused.
  9. They’re in a new relationship. It’s never been easier to monitor an ex’s life after you’ve supposedly severed contact with them. Scrolling through their social media and seeing them with someone new is even harder than hearing about it through friends because you have visual evidence that they are no longer sad about the end of your relationship. You may think you’re fine with it. You may even feel happy for them. But if you’re dreaming about them, it’s because somewhere deep down, you’re having to let go all over again.
  10. You’re starting a new relationship. The excitement of a new relationship can bring up bittersweet memories of previous partners. Falling in love is a powerful and vulnerable experience. Your emotions are carrying you towards something unknown, and you’re opening yourself up to potential pain. Your dreams are reminding you of the times you’ve been in love before so you know what to expect.
Rose Nolan is a writer and editor from Austin, TX who focuses on all things female and fabulous. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from the University of Surrey and a Master's Degree in Law from the University of Law. She’s been writing professional since 2015 and, in addition to her work for Bolde, she’s also written for Ranker and Mashed. She's published articles on topics ranging from travel, higher education, women's lifestyle, law, food, celebrities, and more.